This post kicks off our Multicultural Kid Blogs Book Club! We are reading Bilingual is Better by Ana Flores and Roxana Soto. If you have questions about the book club or how to participate, you can find all the information here.
Introduction and Chapter 1: The New Face of America
In the introduction, the authors share the stories of their bilingual upbringings and how speaking two languages has shaped their lives. Their conviction to raise bilingual children eventually moved them to create one of my favorite websites, the parenting blog Spanglish Baby.
Chapter 1: The New Face of America presents a short history of Latinos in the U.S. and briefly discusses the impact the growing Latino population is having on all facets of American life. With this growing Latino presence has come an awareness of the value of speaking Spanish, which in turn has sparked a bilingual parenting revolution. The chapter ends with examples of families in different situations who are raising their children speaking Spanish and English.
The authors mention that the idea for Spanglish Baby sprang from not being able to find Spanish language children’s books in the United States. I was motivated to start Spanish Playground because I know how hard it is for parents and teachers to find authentic language materials.
I raised my children speaking Spanish and English in the first years of the internet. Before the web existed (yes, the internet existed before the WWW), I was using electronic bulletin board systems to connect my university students to native speakers in Mexico, but there was no material for my children. I desperately searched for books and music in the U.S. and loaded a suitcase with games, books and CDs each time we came home from Mexico. As the web developed and more content became available, I began to find material to use with my family and in my classes. Finally, I started to compile the information here.
I still marvel at the authentic language material on the web and work hard to put Spanish resources in the hands of parents and teachers. Technology has also given us an amazing ability to build community and support each other. I believe the access to authentic language and community that the internet provides will be key in the success of the bilingual parenting revolution in the United States.
In the first chapter, Soto talks about the negative attitudes that some Americans have toward educating children in two languages. It is frustrating that we have to justify giving children a valuable skill and a connection to their heritage, but I know from personal experience that there are people who hold the views the author describes.
Bilingual is Better is an attempt to convince Latinos and others of the importance of raising bilingual children and give them a method to take on the challenge. Raising children with two languages is hard work and takes huge commitment. Many parents will have to be persuaded to try and supported in order to succeed. At some point, we can only hope that schools will assume the responsibility of ensuring that children who start school speaking two languages do not lose one. Until that time, educated Latinos with resources, who are fully integrated into the system, must advocate for all native speakers. The authors are playing a crucial role by promoting the value of bilingualism.
Lines that spoke to me
The author contrasts life in Denver with life in Miami saying …Spanish is not prevalent here, especially if you live in the suburbs. Raising bilingual children, then, becomes a challenge (p 49).
This is also true in many rural areas, like the one where I live. In my experience, “becomes a challenge” is an understatement. Raising bilingual children in any setting requires consistent effort, but living where there is a significant Spanish-speaking population makes it easier. Families living where there are few Spanish speakers need to understand the importance of getting their kids into immersion situations on a regular basis if they are to be truly bilingual.
I think it is safe to assume that Spanish isn’t going anywhere (p 53).
So true! Let’s hope that more and more Americans understand this and give their children the opportunity to speak both Spanish and English.
– Where you live, do you feel the need to convince people of the value of raising children with two, or more, languages? What do you tell them?
– What insights, reflections, or questions did Chapter 1 generate for you?
You can find the chapter discussions on these blogs:
Chapter 2: – Oct. 7
Chapter 3: – Oct. 17
Chapter 4: – Oct. 24
Chapter 5: – Oct. 31
Chapter 6: Laugh and Learn – Nov. 7
– Nov. 14